Development of a battery-free ultrasonically powered functional electrical stimulator for movement restoration after paralyzing spinal cord injury

Monzurul Alam, Shuai Li, Rakib Uddin Ahmed, Yat Man Yam, Suman Thakur, Xiao Yun Wang, Dan Tang, Serena Ng, Yong Ping Zheng

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Functional electrical stimulation (FES) is used to restore movements in paretic limbs after severe paralyses resulting from neurological injuries such as spinal cord injury (SCI). Most chronic FES systems utilize an implantable electrical stimulator to deliver a small electric current to the targeted muscle or nerve to stimulate muscle contractions. These implanted stimulators are generally bulky, mainly due to the size of the batteries. Furthermore, these battery-powered stimulators are required to be explanted every few years for battery replacement which may result in surgical failures or infections. Hence, a wireless power transfer technique is desirable to power these implantable stimulators. Methods: Conventional wireless power transduction faces significant challenges for safe and efficient energy transfer through the skin and deep into the body. Inductive and electromagnetic power transduction is generally used for very short distances and may also interfere with other medical measurements such as X-ray and MRI. To address these issues, we have developed a wireless, ultrasonically powered, implantable piezoelectric stimulator. The stimulator is encapsulated with biocompatible materials. Results: The stimulator is capable of harvesting a maximum of 5.95 mW electric power at an 8-mm depth under the skin from an ultrasound beam with about 380 mW/cm2 of acoustic intensity. The stimulator was implanted in several paraplegic rats with SCI. Our implanted stimulator successfully induced several hindlimb muscle contractions and restored leg movement. Conclusions: A battery-free miniature (10 mm diameter × 4 mm thickness) implantable stimulator, developed in the current study is capable of directly stimulating paretic muscles through external ultrasound signals. The required cost to develop the stimulator is relatively low as all the components are off the shelf.

Original languageEnglish
Article number36
JournalJournal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2019


  • Functional electrical stimulation
  • Piezoelectric
  • Ultrasound
  • Wireless power

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Health Informatics


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